Historic Hike Digs Down Into City's Buried Secrets

October 28, 1991|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

George R. Hayman Jr. pointed his closed red and gold umbrella towardthe gray sky, turned to a dozen people behind him, and with a directive to "follow the umbrella," led them through an Annapolis few people know exist.

The volunteer tour guide marched his pack of visitors around State Circle yesterday, down to City Dock and back up the hill to the William Paca House and Gardens, hitting 12 sites in all as part of the Historic Annapolis Foundation's 10th annual Historic Hike.

Unlike previous walks, when tours focused on old taverns or a specific section of the historic city, this year's looked at what lies buried deep below ground.

For 10 years, archaeologists have been digging below old homes and mansions, streets and sidewalks and parkinglots.

Their findings, some of which are displayed in museums or stored in laboratories, show how previous generations lived, what theyate, where they worked and what they believed. The clues come from garbage buried in backyards, from fence post markings in the soil, from bones, bits of glass and pieces of pottery.

Volunteer guides forHistoric Annapolis, a private, non-profit preservation group, led visitors during two-hour tours yesterday to some of more than 30 sites excavated during the past decade by Archaeology in Annapolis. The foundation and the University of Maryland jointly sponsor the ongoing, permanent project.

In many cases, archaeologists stepped in to dig when they learned an old building was to be restored. Other times, the foundation stopped a building's demolition, then sent in the scientists.

Hayman showed his tour group the Governor Calvert House on State Circle, where archaeologists dug three times in the early 1980s as the home was being transformed into a hotel.

Digs in part of the yard, which revealed a deep well full of pottery and pipe stems, revealed that another house had been built on the same site in the early 1700s, with

its backyard, rather than its front, facing the circle.

Digs along the State Circle sidewalk, done as the city buried its overhead telephone lines, showed that the circle had once been egg-shaped and much narrower.

In the mid-1980s, utility workers digging along the circle outside St. Anne's Church discovered bones. Theycalled in the archaeologists, who determined that the bones came from a church graveyard, before returning them to the church.

Anotherdig took place at Gotts Court, now a parking lot where city officials plan a parking garage. In 1908, William Gotts built 25 tenement houses and rented them to black laborers. Artifacts buried in yards of homes, torn down in the 1950s, are offering clues to the differences in lifestyles between wealthy whites and poor blacks, Hayman said.

Archaeologists have found lead type in the backyard of the Jonas Green House, once owned by the state's printer of money, deeds and bills,proving that work sites once existed within homes.

And just last week, as part of a restoration project, archaeologists uncovered a couple of hundred pieces of printer's type in the Maynard-Burgess House, the only standing structure built by a free black man and his family.

The hike led to the Charles Carroll garden, where the Charles Carroll House of Annapolis Inc. is sponsoring a project to restore thebirthplace of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

The group has been excavating areas inside the house, coming up with bits of glass, porcelain, ceramics and bottles.

Last summer, archaeologists discoveredquartz crystals, indicating that slaves had lived there and used thecrystals in conjunction with religious worship.

The tour wound its way to the 1765 William Paca House and Gardens. Two centuries later, after the home had been used as a hotel and the former gardens had been covered by a parking lot, a 10-story office building was proposed for the site. Historic Annapolis bought the home, and state officials bought the parking lot and excavated the garden.

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